A man wearing a Santa hat sits on a roof. He's talking to his ex-girlfriend on a cell phone, trying with feigned cheer to wish her a Merry Christmas. He asks if she's with her new boyfriend. Yes, she replies, and she's with her whole family, opening presents. He says, "That's great, because I have a present for you," and he saws off his own head so it falls down the chimney into the fireplace.
This isn't a horror movie. It's a cartoon, filmed in stop-motion animation, like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It runs on the Cartoon Network, which is owned by Time Warner. And it's aimed at children.
This horrific little severed-head sketch was part of a show called "Robot Chicken," which has aired for years on this network. Nobody watches that, you say. Think again: "Robot Chicken" has turned up on a list of the Top 25 shows watched by children aged 12 to 17.
Some might say all this "fun" is clearly designed for young adults, not children. It's after dark, when the Cartoon Network turns -- from Jekyll to Hyde -- into the Adult Swim Channel. But that's not at midnight. Since December, it's been moved into prime time at 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. Central. Even before that, Nielsen reported in 2008 that the top U.S. networks for teenagers were Fox, Nickelodeon, Disney ... and Adult Swim.
Speaking of Christmas, that show also has a cartoon of a man tied up for a stoning, with Jesus saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." As men beginning dropping their rocks, Jesus then whacks the tied-up man in the head with a rock and yells "Blammo!" Mocking Jesus is an ongoing theme; In another skit called "Jesus and the Argonauts," when all his men leave, Jesus complains "Oh, Dad damn it!"
In a new survey of the top 20 animated cable shows, the Parents Television Council gave an A grade to Disney and Nickelodeon for its top cartoons. But the Cartoon Network and its "Adult Swim" bloc earned an F for excessive sex, violence, profanity, and drug use.
In watching just 123 programs in a four-week study period, the PTC documented one thousand four hundred and eighty-seven examples of offensive material ... on cartoons. On average, young viewers were exposed to this junk once every two minutes and 19 seconds.